CARY, N.C. - The University of Tampa Spartans baseball team knocked off the Henderson St. Reddies by a 5-2 score en route to the NCAA Championship game. The Thursday afternoon victory signals the Spartans' second trip to the title game in just three years, as Head Coach Joe Urso led Tampa to a National Championship in 2013.
Junior Brad Hencke took the mound for the Spartans in the victory, earning his eighth win of the year in 5.1 innings pitched. The lefty allowed two runs on two hits and walked two batters, striking out an additional four in 22 batters faced.
Senior righty Taylor Brookes appeared in relief for Tampa, throwing 0.1 innings and allowing just one hit. It was long-reliever Dylan Barrow, however, who closed out the game with 3.1 innings on the mound. The junior RHP allowed shut down the Henderson St. offense, relinquishing just one hit and striking out two in 11 batters faced for the save.
Offensively, the Spartans scored first in the contest, picking up a run in the bottom of the first inning to take a lead that they would never give up. Senior lead off hitter Andrew Amaro jumpstarted the rally with a double to left-centerfield. After a groundout allowed Amaro to take third, senior Stephen Dezzi sent an RBI single into centerfield to score Amaro and go ahead, 1-0.
Tampa scored again in the bottom of the third inning, when junior Casey Scoggins used his speed to leg out an infield single. Dezzi then walked, pushing Scoggins to second, and a flyout allowed Scoggins to race to third. One out later, senior Nick Flair sent a single to right field, allowing Scoggins to snag home and put the Spartans up by two.
Senior Nick Tindall led off in the bottom of the fourth inning, blasting a double to the right-centerfield gap. A groundout then allowed Tindall to take third, and a walk to Scoggins put runners on the corners for the Spartans. Dezzi then picked up his second RBI of the day with an infield groundout that scored Tindall and forced a 3-0 Tampa lead.
Henderson St. scored its only runs of the game in the top of the sixth inning, taking advantage of three hits and a hit-by-pitch. The Spartans responded, however, with two of their own in the bottom of the same inning to regain a three-run lead. Tindall led off the inning with a walk, and when Amaro's bunt attempt resulted in a Reddie error, the Spartans were left with two on and no one out. Scoggins then walked to load the bases, and the following walk to Dezzi allowed Tindall to score with the bases still loaded. After a Henderson St. pitching change, senior Giovanny Alfonzo sent a sac fly to right field that allowed Tindall to score for the final run of the game.
With Barrow on the mound for the final three innings, Henderson St. was unable to score, and Tampa took home the 5-2 victory.
On the day, Tampa registered nine hits, and Stephen Dezzi led the squad with three RBI. Nick Flair was the only Spartan to record two hits, while almost every starter picked up one. In addition, the Spartans walked eight times in the contest, and Tindall picked up the team's only HBP.
Tampa hopes to clinch the Division II title on Saturday, and will face the winner of Friday's game between Catawba and Cal Poly Pomona. UT will need one win Saturday, with the first game slated for 3 p.m. If UT loses the first game, the second will start at approximately 7 p.m., with the winner claiming the national championship. Fans may watch the game live through NCAA.com. Live stats will be available through Tampa.Statbroadcast.com.
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